YA Brussels 2011

Minority stories IX: A life changing moment

Today we had an interview with a very special woman Quyen Truong Thi. She is 39 and she is from Vietnam. Now she lives in Brussels because she thinks that this city is the best for everything. She says that people in Brussels are very nice and helpful. She told us that in 1981 her father came to Brussels with notorious Vietnamesse boat people (poor people, who want to have a better life and they are travelling with boat to other country). After 5 years, when Quyen was 15, he bring his family to Brussels. She had to start her life from the beginning, she was talking totaly different language, she had different traditions, culture and religion. Her words touched us very much, esspecialy when she told us that she was crying all day. For her was very hard to start a totaly new life. But withou...[Read More]

Minority stories VIII: A fairytale that became a reality

Today, we – Tony (Bulgaria), Francesca (Italy) and Aleksandra (Poland) – interviewed Katarzyna Sawicesa – a Polish woman who came to Brussels when she was 20 and is still living there. She took a chance in 1990s and has come to Belgium as a tourist for three months. Then, she decided to stay in Brussels and was working illegally looking forward to a better tomorrow. The beginnings of her stay in the capital of Belgium were inherently connected with a fear of being misunderstood and rejected. Fortunately, she met people who helped her in the process of adaptation. Katarzyna claims that due to her European roots, the differences weren’t so remarkable. Now, she has a family in Brussels and speaks French and Dutch fluently so she recognize Belgium as her own country. However,...[Read More]

Minority stories VII: “Africa is where my heart belongs”

Britta (Estonia), Enja (Norway) and Krista (Finland) interviewed a Rwandan woman, Marie-Pierre, 44, who moved to Belgium to study for an university degree because she was unable to attend a Rwandan university due to her late father’s high position in the past. She intended to return to Rwanda after finishing her degree, but was unable to due to the growing instability in the country which culminated in the 1994 Rwandan genocide. After this, her whole family successfully applied for asylum. Marie-Pierre has two children and is married to a Cameroonian man. In her household, she tries to incorporate traditions from Cameroon, Rwanda, and Belgium. The family often eats African food, and the family visits Africa once a year. Marie-Pierre considers it important that although her children a...[Read More]

Minority stories V: Chinese minorities in Brussels – interviewing Chan Chi How

Britta (Estonia), Sanni (Finland) and Yolanda (Spain) went to Anderlecht for their interview: Our assignment to study chinese minorities in Brussels, led us to the house of Chan Chi How, situated in Anderlecht. Mr. How is a 42 year old IT specialist, who was born in Brussels and belongs to the second generation of Chinese immigrants. His grandfather arrived to Brussels before the Second World War, followed by his parent 15 years later. Together they opened a restaurant business, hoping to improve their financial situation. The hard work paid off and their lifequality improved alot, but they still missed the chinese culture which had negative effects on their intergration to the Belgian society. Chan Chi was born 1968 and has spent all of his life in Brussels, like every other Belgian. He s...[Read More]

Minority stories IV: A Polish woman in the city of tolerance

Aleksandra (Poland), Gabriele (Italy) and Ilona (Latvia) went to the European Comission to interview Aleksandra Hedb from Silesia (a Polish mining region). She was born near the border with Czech Republic so she has been dealing with other cultures from the early beginnings of her life. She was studying sociology at the University of Breslau and  came to Brussels in 2003. Although the beginnings were difficult, she stayed in the capital of Belgium and took a chance to change her life. She didn’t have a well-prepared plan, but she had a sense of luck and was determined and now she is working in the European Community and has a lot of prospects for the future. She says that now she can empathize with the representatives of minorities and help them more effective, because she knows the feelin...[Read More]

Visiting Bois du Caziers: 55 years after the mine tragedy

Today the Eustory-group went on a trip to southern Belgium, Vallonia, to visit and see the great canal systems and the museum of the former coalmine ‘Le Bois du Cazier’ . We first got on the bus and drove to the Houdeng-Aimeries waterlift, where we after a nice and very sunny trip on the channel, actually got to try out the world famous waterlifts. We had a quick lunch at the information center, where we also got the chance to look at some old former worker baracks. After lunch we headed to the museum and memorial center of the former coalmine of  Le Bois du Cazier. There we got an inspiring guided tour through the everyday lives of the minors and got to see the tools and routines that the workers had. The highlight of the day was hearing about the big disaster on 8. August in ...[Read More]

Minoritiy stories III: The Italian experience

The Italian experience Think about having Belgium, Slovenia, Romania, Italy and Rwanda in the same room: that is what happen in the case of Bo (Belgium), Cristina (Romania) and Mateja (Slovenia): Two mixed stories and two different points of view built the whole »old and new migration« for us. Loredana is a nice and warm Italian lady, about 60 years old, who came here in the 1970s in order to teach the children of Italian miners (the first generations who left Italy for Belgium) italian, obviously. The impressive things about her were her ideas about integration and her opinion about the european origin. »Integration shouldn’t force you to give up your traditions and native tongue. It does not matter how much time you spend in a country, you should always remember where you come from...[Read More]

Minority stories II: The history and future of a Belgo-Congolese

A summary of the  interview with Augistin Nkenda by Enja (Norway), Victoria (Switzerland) and Zlatina (Bulgaria): The meeting with Nkenda was a meeting with a passionate man who has managed to keep his values and traditions, but at the same time integrate in the Belgian society. We met him in his own food store “General and exotic food store”, where he welcomed us with a friendly and open-minded attitude. In the introduction of the interview he told us about Congo and his former life there. Then he moved on to the subject of which he is really engaged in, African youth groups – he is working on a doctorate concerning the topic. During his work with his doctorate he has achieved more knowledge about the challenges related to minorities and the integration process. His focus point is t...[Read More]

Discovering the life of minorities No 1: A cafeteria experience…

We formed six groups that headed to different parts of Brussels to speak to members of different communities. You can read the summaries of the interviews here on the blog, starting with: Anna from Slovenia, Francesca from Italy and Liva from Latvia interviewed Malika Abbad from Marocco. We were talking about her personal experience with migrations and minorities in Brussels. She has very important job here in Brussels, she is an adviser equality of chances in cooperation with a members of a government. When she was 6, she moved with her family from her birth place Morocco to Brussels in Belgium. During the interview we found out her experience since then and the things she had to face after she moved to another country with very different culture, traditions and lifestyle. The most intere...[Read More]

Students on Tele Bruxelles

Watch here the documentation

How much should one integrate? The ABC of minorities

After a really short night – the last participants arrived at 1 am – and a brief get-to-know-each other we moved from our nice accommodation to the centre of to Brusseles, to the museum BELvue which is our working place for this week. There the students jumped right into the topic while finding words connected to minorities, cluster and discuss them. This was a good brainstorming for the following task: Finding ONE question per group concerning minoritie and ask it not only to the other students but also to two experts:  Hans Vandecandelaere, an historian who is currently writing a book about minorities in Brussels, and Prahbu Rajagopal who is working about the topic of migration for the King Baudouin Foundation. But how easy is it really to find minorities in Brussels, letR...[Read More]

Coming up next: First EUSTORY academy 2011

More than 180 ethnic minorities are living in Brussels, the capital of Belgium and of the European Union. They come from all over the world, bringing their cultural backgrounds with them. Some families have been living here for generations, other individuals have just arrived. Young people from 13 European countries will meet in Brussels from 28 August to 3 September in order to explore different dimensions of migration and to see how – or whether – integration works. They will bring along research material about the situation for minorities in their own countries; they will draw comparisons and explore the mosaic of diversity in Europe. Participants will meet with people from European, African or Asian countries, and listen to their stories: When and why did they come to Brussels? How do ...[Read More]